Source Pravda.Ru

Somali Pirates Demand USD 7 Million for Release of British Couple

Somali pirates who kidnapped a retired British couple from their yacht have demanded a £4.2 million ransom for their release.

Paul Chandler, 59, and his wife Rachel, 55, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured in the early hours of October 23 when armed men woke them at gunpoint as they sailed in the Indian Ocean.

One of their pirate captors telephoned the BBC to make their first ransom demand for $7 million, the equivalent of £4.2 million. He said: "If they do not harm us, we will not harm them. We only need a little amount of $7 million."

He said the couple had been captured by "our brothers who patrol the coast", according to Telegraph.co.uk.

Pirates have plagued busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia for several years. Foreign warships from 16 nations are patrolling the area to try and prevent hijacks, but the sea gangs are now hunting for ships far into the Indian Ocean.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said the British government was aware of the reported ransom demand, but could not confirm its authenticity.

The pirate gangs -- some made up of former fishermen angered by the presence of foreign fishing fleets in Somali waters -- and their backers within Somalia and abroad have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms.

Pirates in northern Somalia also said on Saturday they had seized a Yemeni fishing vessel after a gunbattle overnight that killed one of the hijackers and wounded another.

Ransom demands are usually high to start with, but tend to be whittled down during often protracted negotiations. Pirates initially demanded at least $15 million for a supertanker with $100 million of oil on board but accepted $3 million in the end, Reuters informs.